Mumbai, Aug 18: Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray on Tuesday flayed NCP president Sharad Pawar for opposing conferring of the state's highest award on an eminent historian and accused the former union minister of indulging "only in caste politics for vested interest".
Criticising the Nationalist Congress Party leader's opposition to conferment of the prestigious Maharashtra Bhushan on eminent historian Balwant Moreshwar alias Babasaheb Purandare on Wednesday, Thackeray lamented that the event had been sullied by the controversy raging for the past few days.
To a question, Thackeray warned: "If anybody dares to touch Purandare, we will do a 'tandav' in Maharashtra."
The state government's decision to award Purandare, 95, kicked off a row between lobbies for and against as his writings on the Maratha warrior king Chhatrapati Shivaji have become an emotional issue in the state.
The Sambhaji Brigade, considered representative of the powerful Maratha community, and other opponents allege a 'Brahmanical conspiracy' by Purandare and others to defame Chhatrapati Shivaji's mother Jijabai, calling him a Hindu king though he had many Muslims serving him, distorting history with untruths and creating controversies.
A group of leaders, including descendents of the Chhatrapati clan -- Udayanraje Bhosale, NCP MP from Satara, and Chhatrapati Sambhajiraje of Kolhapur, have asked Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to defer conferment of the award till the controversy is put to rest.
Other prominent opponents include Jnanpith laureate Bhalchandra Nemade, Mukta Dabholkar (daughter of slain anti-superstition activist Narendra Dabholkar), Medha Pansare (daughter of slain CPI leader Govind Pansare), and leader of opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, activists and other groups across the state.
While the ruling BJP and Shiv Sena leaders have already favoured the award for Purandare, the MNS came out in support on Tuesday. Even the NCP's official position is that Purandare deserves the award.
"I feel the portrayal of Shivaji in Purandare's work is not in keeping with history. I have respect for him but I have a different image of Shivaji in my mind," Nemade urged in his letter to Fadnavis.
Opposing the government's move, some so-called Sambhaji Brigade activists ransacked the office of BJP's Minister of State for Home Ram Shinde in Ahmednagar on Tuesday.
Considering the strong feelings over the upcoming award ceremony, Maharashtra Police have increased security around Purandare's Pune residence.
Several top NCP leaders have demanded that the award for Purandare should be cancelled, and around 50 village panchayats in Pune district also passed a resolution in the same vein.
Over a decade ago, a similar controversy erupted when American historian James Laine penned a book on Chhatrapati Shivaji, raking up the questions of his parentage.
It resulted in an attack by Sambhaji Brigade on Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute in Pune, a police case against Laine and a ban on his book in India.